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Young Adults Say They Want Better, Not Less Government Education, Social Security, Medicare Top Concerns In Poll

Thu., Nov. 20, 1997

Most young adults don’t necessarily want to reduce government’s role in America but want it to do a better job, according to a new poll.

As for themselves, however, they see their future not in government work but in private business.

The survey by pollsters Peter Hart and Robert Teeter was released Wednesday at the kickoff of a project by corporations and nonprofit groups to increase public trust in government.

“Young people give government mixed grades in terms of helping them achieve the American dream,” Hart said, but “it is reforming government rather than less government that is important to these people.”

The telephone survey of 505 Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 was conducted Oct. 29 and 30. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

In the poll, 40 percent of respondents said government can help them achieve their goals in life, compared with the 48 percent who said government programs and policies are a hindrance.

But a large majority, 71 percent, answered that government could help with better leadership and management, and 60 percent would prefer improving the government over simply reducing its size and power.

Young people ranked improving education, reforming Social Security and Medicare to accommodate the retirement of the baby-boomer generation and maintaining a strong economy as their top priorities for government.

On working in government themselves, 66 percent said a career in the private sector is more appealing. The worst aspects of government work, young people said, are that it is too bureaucratic and too political.

When asked to rank their attraction to specific careers, most put traditionally public service occupations, such as teaching and social work, above corporate careers including management and software engineering.

Among 22 organizations participating in the new Partnership for Trust in Government launched Wednesday, the Girl Scouts of America will introduce a new patch scouts can earn by learning about public service, and IBM Corp. and Harvard University will host a conference on how the government uses technology to solve problems.


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